Jerry Gana: Between Haruna’s Criticism And Rev Kukah’s Vituperations


Tanimu Umar

Two diatribes by two of Nigeria’s men of wisdom, Mohammed Haruna and Reverend Matthew Hassan Kukah (Daily Trust July 12th and July 21st respectively) made interesting reading. Mohammed Haruna is an analyst of repute whom I admired from childhood, when he was with New Nigerian Newspapers; his commentaries on national issues are straightforward and objective. The Reverend is one of the most respectful clergymen and analysts we have in Nigeria. Kukah’s rejoinder against Haruna’s criticism on Jerry Gana’s presidential ambition was, to say the least, misconstrued and spark of biased misconception. It is unbelievable for a person of Rev Kukah’s image to make so much furore over what can rightfully be ascertained as an objective disparagement. Mohammed Haruna’s rebuttal of Jerry Gana’s declaration to vie for the presidency next year stemmed from his assessment of the objectivity of Gana as a person vis-à-vis his aspiration to be Nigeria’s leader. Firstly, Haruna condemned the Geography professor as a dye-in-the wool sycophant.


According to him, “expect for the foul-mouthed Femi Fani-Kayode…who specialized in abusing each and every critic of his master (Obasanjo), Gana has been arguably the most passionate government propagandist the country has had”. This assessment is substantiated by the fact that since his coming into public fame in 1985, when IBB appointed him the helmsman of MAMSER, he was known to be a mouth-piece of the government, a similar role to that of Josep Goebbels during the Nazi era. Professor Gana can be likened to the proverbial cat with nine lives; his expertise in propaganda made him to serve all the successive governments. That propagandist tendency made Haruna to dub Jerry Gana “the most obsequious man ever to walk the corridors of power in Nigeria”. The focal point in Mohammed Haruna’s discourse was Jerry Gana’s religious fanatism, which has obviously stirred Rev Kukah’s fierce eruption.


Every person has the right to practice whatever religion inclination, but it is morally wrong to abuse that right, as we all know Jerry Gana has done through the manipulation of live television broadcast from the Aso Rock chapel every Sunday when he was the nation’s minister of information. He could have balanced it and could have defied criticisms by, say, ordering the broadcast of live Friday prayers from the National Mosque. Haruna also quoted a front-page story from ThisDay publication of July 5th 2006, which urged Northern Christians to support Gana’s presidential bid. Why the word “Christian” and why should the call be targeted to “Northern Christians” not to the entirety of the North or Nigeria? ThisDay’s clarion call branded Jerry Gana “the popular among Pentecostal Christian leaders in the North”. Why not campaign for him in the premise of him being a popular northern leader? Certainly there are more questions than answers.


To lay the basis of his inciteful rejoinder, Rev Kukah claimed that of recent Mohammed Haruna’s hitherto impressive writings have turned to “bigotry, intolerance and demagoguery which beggar believe and comprehension”. He dubbed Haruna as one of those critics that agitates for the presidency to return to a “specific Northern Muslim”, the Northern Christians being “second-class citizens”. He also resoundingly stated that if read “between the lines” Haruna’s motive was to debunk Jerry Gana’s desire to be President for him being a “Northern Christian”. I don’t know what grammatical barometer the Reverend used to interpret Haruna’s outlook as guarded by religious sentiments, but my own opinion is that he has not very dexterously read “between the lines”. And for someone of Rev Kukah’s virtue, he probably has done so without objectivity. To an objective assessor, what Mohammed Haruna deemed as the raison d'être why Jerry Gana will not succeed in his presidential bid is not for him being a Christian, a Northern Christian or a Pentecostal.


But for him being a wolf in sheep clothing whose sycophancy and selfishness has beclouded his sense of reasoning, whose religious bigotry has blinded his objectivity. Personally, I have never seen religion as an index for electing the President of the country, or indeed any political office holder. Jerry Gana has all the credentials and wherewithal to bid for the presidency, but the mere perusal of his curriculum vitae since leaving the Geography department of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) tends to throw away all his competence and credibility. How can you rate a person who held various political offices under the three Generals: Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and the infamous Olusegun Obasanjo and has never, not even once criticize them? A friend has recently singled out Jerry Gana as one of the most credible and incorruptible Northern Nigerians (not Northern Christians).


I argued that if he is indeed credible he won’t have served as a minister and special assistant under Obasanjo’s government. Any credible person should have, before Obasanjo’s first year in office, resigned and criticise the wanton misrule by the government which have crippled Nigeria to the status of beggar nation. The professor should have returned to his credible teaching job! I went further to tell that friend that he needs to see the razzmatazz and fanfare gala that was displayed during the wedding of the Professor’s son! My worry is that the country looks up to a person like Rev Kukah to spearhead the task of uniting the country, so that we will coexist as one entity. But his antecedence and the recent misconception of Nigerians’ right to free speech and expression, as exemplified by his volatile and myopic decoding of Mohammed Haruna’s criticism of Jerry Gana’s presidential ambition, tend to be counter- productive. I was perplexed by Rev Kukah’s perception of what he termed as Haruna’s “banality and fantasy”. In what can be regarded as intellectual misconception he concluded that Haruna’s piece can be deciphered to mean Jerry Gana cannot be President of Nigeria because, in spite of his intellect and academic recognition, he “worship(s) the wrong God”.


It is astonishing that a man of vast religious knowledge can construe the two major religions in Nigeria as worshipping the “wrong God”. Mohammed Haruna, and certainly any rational Muslim, can never denote a Christian with worshipping the “wrong God”. Such unsavoury assessments can very well submerge Nigeria back to its dark history of religious violence and intolerance, actions against which, I believe, Rev Kukah is an advocate. Mohammed Haruna has the right to his critique on Jerry Gana’s antics, not because the Professor is a follower of the Christian religion, but because he has made himself susceptible to criticisms. Haruna, or any other Muslim public commentator, cannot tag other respectful “Northern Christians”, like Sunday Awoniyi, as religious bigots. Where chief Awoniyi is objective and principled, Jerry Gana is egocentric and toady.


But they are all Christians. Criticisms and rebuttals apart, I don’t see Jerry Gana as making any headway in vying for Nigeria’s Presidency. Nigeria is in a state of disrepair, which only a credible, conscientious and reasonable person can put back to shape. Be that individual a “Northern Christian”, Northern Muslim, Southern Christian or Southern Muslim, or even an agnostic. Certainly Jerry Gana does not fit into these categories. So in a realistic sense, Mohammed Haruna’s denigration and Rev Kukah’s misinterpretation should not have come up, none of them made any impact on Nigerians with regards to Jerry Gana’s desire to succeed Baba Iyabo as the next occupant of Aso Rock Villa.                                  


U. TANIMU UMAR                                 

 Gombe State.